Sunday, August 29, 2010

Havre de Grace to St. Michaels (Aug 20 - Sep 2)

We finally managed to leave Bruce and Joan's on August 20th. They are such good hosts and in such a nice location, it was easy to keep extending. But we had places to go and things to see! You wouldn't think that would be the case knowing the amount of time we'd lived in MD, but we had never cruised there and really hadn't done much in-state traveling in years either. So our first new destination was Havre de Grace. We happened to arrive the day before a weekend arts and crafts show - according to the advertising more than 250 artist/crafts people would be in attendance. Maybe that many attended, but far fewer had booths set up. In spite of that, we spent an enjoyable hour or so browsing and visiting with the artists. Havre de Grace is a small old town with some interesting shops and nice old houses. It is also home to a decoy museum and a maritime museum. This area had been big during the market hunting years and the decoy museum is dedicated almost entirely to working decoys, meaning those that hunters use in the field or water to attract waterfowl as opposed to the kind people buy for art. There were interesting displays about many of the more famous carvers, some of whom Joe had met during his hunting years. The maritime museum was also interesting. One surprising thing was this canoe hanging near the entrance. It is functional and weighs only 12 lbs. After getting back into the sightseeing groove, we moved on to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. We docked right down in the thick of things between the aquarium and the science center. After getting all settled in, we were told that we would need to move because of a large ship coming in later in the week. So we moved over one pier and again settled in. The morning of our first day - with rain in the forecast - we decided to go to the American Visionary Art Museum. The only museum of its kind in the US, it displays the works of untrained artists along with their biographical information. The art coupled with the stories was so interesting that we spent most of the day there and didn't really do it all justice. The next day we rode the circulator bus (free!) to the Basilica of the Assumption - the first Catholic Cathedral in the US. As we entered we saw that we had arrived between tours. A gentleman asked if we'd come for a tour and decided that he had time to take us on a slightly abbreviated one. I can't imagine the full tour being much better. The enthusiasm he brought to the telling of the trials and tribulations of the construction translated to one of the best tours we've ever had. The cathedral was designed by Latrobe (who also designed the US Capitol interior) at the request of Thomas Jefferson, who had his own ideas that he wanted incorporated too. Completed in 1821, it underwent extensive renovation from 2004-06. During that renovation, previous changes were removed to bring the building back to the original plan. One controversial change was the removal of all the stained glass windows that had been added. The large domes are supported by inverted brick arches. Latrobe had wanted that structure exposed under the cathedral and also to have that space be used as a chapel. Originally it had ended up mostly filled with sand, but was excavated during the renovation. We ended up extending our stay through Sunday and Joe was able to attend mass at the Basilica. Unfortunately the pews were the most uncomfortable he'd ever experienced. We also went to the near by Walther Art Gallery which houses a wide range of art and peaked into the incredible Peabody Library. Baltimore is a harbor, so boat tours were on the schedule: the USS Constellation, launched in 1854 and used to intercept vessels engaged in the slave trade, then illegal, and later became a training ship at the US Naval Academy; the USS Torsk, the submarine that was the last American vessel to sink a Japanese warship in WWII; the USCGC Taney which in the 1960's became the last active ship that had survived Pearl Harbor; the Lightship Chesapeake that served from 1930 to 1965 when it was replaced by an offshore tower light. These lightships anchored in locations that were hazardous for ships but were unsuitable for lighthouses to be built, making it hazardous for the crews also.

We also got to visit with some friends. We had met Wayne and Lynn Flatt at the trawler fest in Solomons in 2005; the year we ordered our boat. Since then Joe has had contact with them through various boating sites. As we entered the harbor, Joe pointed out the pirate ship that Wayne - aka Bones - captains during the summers. Eventually, contact was made and we spent a fun evening getting to know them better.

We also met up with Great Harbour owners Gene and Judy Koetitz and Henry and Debbie Dennig. Henry and Debbie live nearby on their GH47, Seven Tenths. Henry picked us up one night and we had a great dinner on their boat. The stories behind boat names are often interesting - seven tenths of the earth is water, so you should spend seven tenths of your time on it.

As I mentioned, a large navy ship was supposed to come in on Friday...then Saturday...then Sunday. We had originally planned to leave on Friday, but ended up extending through Sunday. Boy, were we glad we did! Shortly before noon on Sunday, I noticed some police boats with flashing lights. I looked around the side of the boat and a HUGE ship was being pushed by tugs in our direction. The USS Whidbey Island LSD is more than 600 feet long. Just watching the tugs push and pull in concert to maneuver the ship to the wall - a space that hardly looked big enough - was worth the price of the extra dockage. The next morning we were allowed to tour portions of the ship. It's job is to deliver amphibious landing craft and it even carries an air cushioned vessel that can carry them right up on shore. It can also carry a tank. Very impressive - our tax dollars at work!

After a quick overnight at Lake Ogleton, we crossed the bay to St. Michaels. We docked at the Maritime Museum there. Joe had learned that museum members get half price dockage and stay. St. Michaels is another nice small town with lots of interesting shops that I didn't manage to browse in. We did spend a day touring the many buildings of the Maritime Museum. It concentrated on the Eastern Shore and was one of the best we've been to. Lots of old pictures and memorabilia of time spent on the bay, among other things. Andy and Annie (SeaDee) happened to be there at the same time and we had a nice dinner in town one night.

St. Michaels turned out to be a sad stop for us, though. The night before we arrived there, Rocky had been restless and was having some obvious issues. I made a vet appointment on our way over and Jody from the marina drove us to the vet. After an exam and x-rays, the vet determined that he had prostate cancer and a large abdominal mass. Add in his age (13+ years), and the vet said there was really only one option. Even with no other options available, it was a hard choice, but I returned to the boat alone. For such a small dog, he seems to have taken up a lot of space. Joe and I shed tears and hugs, and finally popped a cork off some Champangne to toast Rocky and give thanks for the joy he gave us. The boat sure seems empty without him. There are a few more pictures on the picasa site:

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